Tuesday, November 18, 2008

How to Love the Heck Out of Korea

(this is the expanded version first posted at Hub of Sparkle: including more pictures!)
[Update: blogger replaced all my pictures with ads, so I'm taking them out]

I know, I know, everybody's been wondering, "You seem like a cheery cat. So what makes a happy expat, Roboseyo?" well, fortunately, the guru is open for advice, with a bit of photo/video documentary evidence to back him up.

Fortunately for all concerned, it isn't too hard, if you take the initiative to actually follow the instructions given by your wise old guruseyo. Soon, you'll be as giddy as my former student, Jesse. (Balloons between your knees are optional.)

So, without further ado, but with one more picture, here goes:

How To Love the Heck out of Korea

1. get some friends (preferably evil ones) who will taunt you with K-pop music, and mock your suffering.

Hey Brian! Mwahaha!

2. Get out of the house as much as you can, so that you're around to notice stuff like this, instead of being at home browsing the web and missing all the awesome:

3. Get out of the city as often as you can, to enjoy the amazing landscapes, the small towns, sights, and people of the countryside.

Damyang, Andong

also: see the sights IN town, which are worthwhile, too - Seoul Forest

Last weekend, I went to Paju, and the Hyerin Art Village over there, with Girlfriendoseyo. It was really great.

Here was the coolest building in the whole art village: in the windows, they'd stacked slabs of glass that caught the sun in gorgeous ways. (Play this one: the music is one of my favourite compositions anywhere).

4. Enjoy the seasons. Yep. I said it.

See, we westerners often kind of derisively mock Koreans' trumpeting "Korea's Four, Distinct, Seasons" as if Korea had invented seasons or something. . . and I guess it's stylish to mock things, in some circles. . . except it makes me a surly old crank.

But seriously, the pictures I took of the Fall colours this year were so great (and the best ones got swallowed by my faulty memory card, so even what you're seeing on this slideshow are the weekends before and after the peak, not THE. PEAK. WEEKEND. which was ridiculous, and approaching obscenely beautiful), that I finally understood the enthusiasm. I wanted to grab tourists by the shoulders and shout in their faces, "HEY! Did you know Korea has four seasons?" too! -- I mean, why let a shell of cynicism put a too-cool-for-school dint on that kind of happiness? 

Korean autumn is effing beautiful, and there's no need to take anything away from that! So yeah, enjoy the seasons. Don't hate on the Koreans who love the seasons, too--they darn well oughta, living here. Yeah, other places ALSO have four distinct seasons, and yeah, Autumn in Southern Ontario, where I grew up, was pretty great too, but so what? Korea has a beautiful Autumn! Am I allowed to just be happy about that, and get my butt outside to enjoy it?

I think so.

5. Watch the people, and let the people-watching make you happy, because people are wonderful.

At the art village, these folks were taking pictures of their kid, and trying to make him/her smile; it was my favourite people-watching moment of the weekend.

6. Pay attention to ALL the details, and allow them to make you smile, not in a "Koreans are backwards, goofy people" way, but in a "Life is full of intriguing details" kind of way. Keep a journal where you write it down if you must, so that you remember the juicy bits, instead of noticing them, smiling for five seconds, and ten forgetting.

The a-little-TOO-excited bus announcer on the 273 makes me giggle every time I ride.

7. Eat good food.

8. Find something you like about the culture, and dig in.  One thing is enough, for starters.  Why watch Lee Hyori videos if she annoys you? There are a lot of aspects of Korean culture worth enjoying, from indie/underground music in the Hongdae area, to traditional performance arts, to the food culture, the '80s acoustic guitar stuff, the goofy fun of trot, not to mention the b-boy culture, the online gaming stuff, the wacky cool street fashion -- pretty much everyone I know who's been here a long time (as Gord Sellar pointed out, too) is involved in some meaningful interaction with some aspect of Korean culture. Don't pay attention to the annoying stuff: there's enough good stuff to never NEED to. Study the language, so you can meet a greater variety of Koreans, and have them like you for trying to learn the language. (Duh.)

Here's something I like about Korea's culture: Jang Sa-ik. Stay tuned for a full write-up on him later.

This is his song Jillaegott -- which (according to the Apple Translator on my dashboard, means "It will steam, ley the flower" uh...yeah. Keep working on that). The youtube page said "Mountain Rose" which sounds nicer. Anyway, he's my new second favourite Korean singer. (After this guy.)

9. Share the good stuff with people, instead of only sharing the complaints when you're around your friends.

Up at the top of my page, I have this quote, from Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters to a Young Poet":
"If your everyday life seems poor, don't blame IT, blame yourself; admit to yourself that you are not enough of a poet to call forth its riches; because for the creator there is no poverty and no poor, indifferent place." -Rainer Maria Rilke

I'd say that doesn't just apply to poets, but to any human, anywhere, who feels that their everyday life seems barren and joyless. If I can get out of my own head enough to start noticing the country around me...well, I'm on my way to loving the heck out of anywhere, aren't I?
(P.S.: See you on Saturday)


JIW said...

THis has to be the ultimate post...has everything in one!

I enjoyed your video montages ~ and hope after many moons here I will have seen so much!

Glad to hear your spirit for Korea is still alive and kickin'.

(also you used my name as a tag... = awesome)

*My Word verification is... diper...hmm* ;p

Jason said...

I think Roboseyo is the Yin to Brian's (do you really need to say, "Brian who?") Yang---or is it the other way around?

Nice post.

Roboseyo said...

Brian who? I don't know anybody named Brian Yang.

I'm worried that if we ever actually meet, there will be an explosion, like when matter and antimatter come into contact.

In all seriousness, though, it's funny you say that, because Brian is probably one of my favorite k-bloggers; I'll even go as far as to say it is necessary for the Korea Blogosphere to have someone like Brian.

Question: if Brian did not exist, would we have to create him?

Brian said...

Nice work, as always. Pretty much anything involving Korean toddlers is awesome.

When you hang out with Z.K., can you take him seriously? I mean, when he wears his Amos Diggory hat?

I really don't understand why Jason is talking about my yang. There's some stuff that should just be kept private. But, in all seriousness, I think we're all over the "ooooh, Brian is so angry" thing. Nothing wrong with getting worked up about bus accidents, 9/11, or bad English. Everybody has their own pet issues, and explores them with the same vigor as I have mine.

Appropriate that we're talking about vigor and Brian's yang . . .

Roboseyo said...

Glad you liked it, Brian. Thanks.

I've noticed, in the bloggers I read, and especially the ones who use the polemical style from time to time, that many of them kind of go in waves -- if you trace back the Metropolitician's blog over the months, you'll notice too that the tone of his posts ebb and flow in a way that pretty accurately demonstrates the cyclical ups and downs of a long-term expat's love/hate feelings about Korea.

I go through seasons when I love Korea, and seasons when I'm not so enthused it, too -- you could probably trace my general movements from ridiculously gleeful to mostly gleeful as well.

Frankly, I think the vinegar, and the fact you're not afraid to dole it out, is one of the reasons more people read your blog than mine.

The nice thing about Joe ZK is that HE doesn't take himself too seriously, so nobody else is required to, either.

Come up to Seoul sometime and find out for yourself.

We can go to a Jimjilbang and compare yangs.

Anonymous said...

i thought i was the only one that thought the 273 announcement was pretty funny. i find myself giggling everytime she says 'the next stop is...'

i have to take that bus 5 times a week and its funny everytime. if you see a girl giggling in the corner, you'll know its me.

gordsellar said...

I don't want to know about either of your yangs. However, if the poster is implying that Brian's more negative, and Robo is more positive, then Yang would be Robo's, and Eum (Korean for "Yin") would be Brian's.

And yeah, I've researched geomantic theories for a few pieces of fiction. Imagine 기 (c'hi) flows searing up into the heavens -- that's the male, positive, light energy. And dark shadowy torrents surging into the earth -- that's the feminine, negative, dark energy of "eum."

I know, men made it all up. But I'm just saying. Which makes me think, what the heck am I? I still grumble when people slam me from behind on the subway, even on the way to hang out with Korean SF geeks in Seoul. Hmmm.

Or foreign geeks, which reminds me, see you Saturday, Rob.

(And if it needs saying, yes, we're geeks. We're bloggers. Geek is Beautiful.)

gordsellar said...

Lord, but I'm a pedant.

Jason said...

Brian said, "Everybody has their own pet issues, and explores them with the same vigor as I have mine."

Actually Brian, some of us restrain the vigor with which we exercise our 'yangs' . . .

I recently told Brian in a comment, "I get irony and satire and the general 'subjectivity of blasphemy' that you [Brian] use to cause ruptures in the Korean cultural imaginary and reality matrix--it's what I'd be doing if I wasn't worried about being fired and deported and then not being able to pay my student loans . . . lol.

If I wasn't worried about that, and also my long term academic and professional career, I'd give you a run for your money in terms of blogging and who can be the most outrageous and sarcastic while at the same time making insightful and informative blog postings . . . but I don't want to have to explain to my university department chair, and the president, why I blogged in such and such a way, or used 'bad' language, etc. Anyways, it's all good. I like your blog--blasphemy as a critical perspective is fantastic. Judith Butler (American feminist-philosopher) and others have been doing it for years . . . it's very cool to see someone doing it in Korea."


Roboseyo said...

Thanks for the comments about my Yang, Gord. It was fun. Pedant was one of my favorite labels for myself in university.

I think that what happens in Brian's case is that, as I said, "if Brian did not exist, we would need to invent him" -- that is, sure, Brian doesn't only write angry posts. If he did, his blog would be boring and monotonous and I'd never go there. He balances it out with Jeollado guide stuff, some great pictures, with humor, with the occasional link to something totally random, unconnected to anything, but hilarious...but we humans love to chunk things into categories, and "angry ranting blogger" is a fallback label easier than needing to really carefully consider a thing. Given that Brian is probably the popular K-blogger who uses the word "fuck" the most, that's the role people give him, and dropping his name becomes shorthand for "angry k-blogger" even though that's not really fair to the entirety of what he writes.

A few years ago, it was the Metropolitician who was the K-blogosphere's pet polemicist -- even though, with him as well, that was a cheap label that wasn't fair to the better part of his posts (to say nothing of his overwhelmingly positive feetmanseoul stuff). Once Brian mellows out a bit, and begins to prefer putting up links to pictures of Asian hotties or something, some other blogger will come along and fill his shoes, and become the new polemicist (and probably ALSO be labeled as such unfairly).

Anyway, that's what I think.

Anonymous said...

speaking of which, has anybody here ever seen brian and roboseyo in the same room together?

Anonymous said...

Hey, was this the one I was supposed to do a guest post for? Too bad, I missed the boeat. Well you did a great job, Roboseyo...

Roboseyo said...

You are absolutely not off the hook, Dani. "How to have an awesome first year in Korea" is a totally different topic, and I expect unmitigated brilliance from you!

Anonymous said...

A fantastic perspective. It makes me miss living in Korea all the more. I will return someday. It keeps drawing me back.


Jelly said...

Well done!

Anonymous said...

This post makes me happy, so thank you! :)

Anonymous said...

Great tips Rob. It's just about my 1 year anniversary for being in Korea and I agree with a lot of what you said.

Two things I would add to your suggestions on how to love Korea would be to learn Hanguel and start a blog.

Even if you don't plan to ever sit down and study the grammar of the Korean language, learning Hanguel is really easy and can be a lot of fun. I know my bus trips to and from school have been a lot less boring than they should have because I've taken the time to read every road sign I drive past.

As for the blog, well, it helps you process your ideas. Learning new things are always fun, but if you take the time to synthesize all the experiences you have and organize them into a well-written post, it cements it into your brain and helps you better understand it.

Lola O. said...

This is probably my favorite blog post on your site. There is a lot of great things about Korea to experience and I can't wait to finally go there

The little girl with the socks is super adorable.

PS: I linked your blog on my site:)

Anonymous said...

Thank you very much for this post :D I just started my second semester of Korean studies at Copenhagen Uni and this has made me look forward to actually going to Korea. I've read things that scared me a little, but I'll keep your guide in mind when I go!

Unknown said...

This is, in all honesty, an excellent post. It gets me more excited about moving to S.Korea.

Roboseyo said...

I really like this."Very very!" as my students would say!